In which my private e-mail communications get reprinted by a government newspaper in Ecuador
Now, this is just gross: the text of one of my private e-mails has been published in an Ecuadorian government newspaper. In an article that portrays me as part of a conspiracy that, were it to exist, I’d be proud to participate in.
Here’s what happened. In July, I got a note from Gonzalo Guillén, a Colombian journalist known for his investigations into alleged ties between politicians — including ex-President Álvaro Uribe — and organized crime. He asked if I could meet with Martha Roldós, an Ecuadorian opposition politician and environmental activist, who was visiting Washington and considering launching an independent media outlet in her country.
We had lunch. Ms. Roldós said that the situation of independent journalists had grown very serious in Ecuador, that it was very difficult to do reporting without a civil or criminal response from the government, and that the intelligence services had increased their surveillance of independent journalists. (Shortly after, I recorded a podcast about press freedom in Ecuador with Carlos Lauría of the Committee to Protect Journalists.)
Ms. Roldós said that, along with a group of reporters, she was planning to found an independent “new media” outlet along the lines of Colombia’s La Silla Vacía or El Salvador’s El Faro. This sounded like a good idea, so I sent an e-mail to a colleague at the Open Society Foundations, which has supported these and other independent Latin American Internet newspapers, recommending they meet.
Well, last month Ms. Roldós had her e-mail account hacked. The hackers were most likely affiliated with the Ecuadorian government, because the content of my e-mail to Open Society showed up in a government-owned newspaper, the Guayaquíl-based El Telégrafo. (That this happened certainly confirms a lot of what Ms. Roldós told me at that lunch.)
The article features a graphic with my picture, taken from WOLA’s website, as part of a sinister circle including Ms. Roldós, Mr. Guillén, David Holiday at OSF, other Ecuadorian journalists critical of the government, and even the National Endowment for Democracy, the U.S. government agency to whom—according to her hacked emails—Ms. Roldós was also applying for support.
The article portrays NED as some sort of CIA front. While the agency has murky cold-war origins, its priorities have long since shifted. In 2011-2012, one of NED’s fellows was Colombian investigative journalist Hollman Morris, a frequent target of vicious verbal attacks from Colombia’s right wing.
I certainly stand by what I wrote in the email, and I’m delighted to be depicted as a member of such an illustrious group. But I’m absolutely furious that the content of my private communications has been published without my consent. By a government paper, no less.
The article reflects well on me. But it reflects very poorly on Ecuador’s government.